Dog missing hind feet runs again with prosthetics designed by SUU students

CEDAR CITY — A dog missing his hind feet is now able to walk and run normally again, thanks to prosthetics developed by a trio of Southern Utah University engineering students.

According to a recent news release from SUU, Yeti, a Siberian husky, lost the lower portion of both of his hind legs in an accident while he was still a puppy.

SUU students Najilah Jones, Morgan Hansen and Cierra Salcido began the process to help Yeti earlier this year. Working together, they designed prosthetic feet, utilizing the support of Bionic Pets and a generous donation from H/3 Foundation.

“This experience is a game-changer for the engineering department,” Jones said in the news release. “Not only is this an all-female group, but we were able to incorporate different disciplines, mentors, and methods within a single project, proving that there are no boundaries that can’t be broken.” 

Yeti had been adopted by his family from Best Friends Animal Society in August 2020. After experiencing major changes in their lives, Leslie Carney and her youngest son, Jacen, were ready to add a dog to the family as they moved forward. 

Yeti runs across the grass with his new prosthetic feet, Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I had so many new things on my plate already, I wasn’t sure that adding a disabled dog was the right thing to do at this time. But something about Yeti just felt right,” Carney said. “I showed his picture and story to Jacen and he immediately responded that we could help this dog – maybe he needs us as much as we need him. I contacted Best Friends and the adoption process began.” 

Yeti’s family wanted to help him live a fuller life and planned to eventually purchase prosthetics for him. However, an unexpected and generous donation from H/3 Foundation allowed the  process to start much sooner. 

Early in the spring 2021 semester, students Jones, Hansen and Salcido teamed up and began working to help Yeti. The three took measurements of Yeti’s stumps and created latex castings and 3D models. The data and castings for Yeti’s new feet were sent to Bionic Pets, where the prosthetics were made.

As Yeti is not able to wear the prosthetics full-time, especially in the beginning, the students also created a pair of booties for Yeti to wear. Using the 3D models, the  team experimented with different materials to see what would be the most comfortable and useful for Yeti to wear full-time. 

The student team received help from several faculty members across disciplines. They also were aided by fellow students including Tom Stratton, who uses a prosthetic and lent them his spare so the team could become familiar with how it worked. 

“My favorite part of this project is working with a focused team that knows what they want, and we really appreciate the faculty and staff that have helped us along the way,” said Salcido. “They are all so busy, yet found the time to help us out.”

“I cannot begin to say how thankful we are for everyone who has helped to make Yeti’s life better,” Carney said. “It is honestly overwhelming when I think of all the love and service that surrounds this wonderful dog! I know we still have work to do going forward but now Yeti has the chance to have his spine in proper alignment and is able to walk on sidewalks without injuring his stubs. We are looking forward to all the adventures ahead with Yeti at our sides!” 

SUU’s Department of Engineering and Technology is known for being academically rigorous,  pushing students to reach their full potential. Though all are in the same department, the three  students have drastically different futures planned. 

“This is a hard degree. Know that going into it,” said Hansen. “But you’re smart enough to do this. Know that it’s not that you’re ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb,’ it’s just that that’s how hard this degree is. In the end, it will be so worth it.” 

Yeti is surrounded by SUU engineering students (L-R) Cierra Salcido, Najilah Jones and Morgan Hansen Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News

Jones is a senior at SUU majoring in engineering technology with an emphasis in architectural civil design and a minor in construction technology. She hopes to one day work designing  sustainable homes and completing sustainable remodels. 

Salcido is a senior double majoring in biology and mechanical engineering with a math minor. Salcido decided on her particular educational career path because she wanted to be a part of  something that challenged her, and said she is keeping her future career options open. 

Hansen is a sophomore double majoring in engineering technology and equine studies. Hansen said she chose to be an engineering major because she wants to pursue a career in medical device development. 

“I want to continue to heal and improve people’s quality of life; it makes me so happy just thinking about it,” Hansen said. “I could make something that greatly improves someone’s life or even saves a life. That would be incredible.” 

Community members will be able to meet and play with Yeti at future STEM events hosted at SUU, university officials said.

Watch more of Yeti’s story in the video embedded in the player above, courtesy of SUU.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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